C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
So we enter the second half of the season on the back of a good win last week. There have been many positive signs that our fortunes are turning in the last few weeks and we hoped to continue this good work against the Tamils. Being woken up by the rain hammering down in the night before brought back the bad 'Baptism of Fire' memories of the first meeting at MTSCC on the opening day. However, there was to be no 'covers Jenga' this time and everything was 'set fair' as we turned up at Edmonton on a lovely afternoon.
Unusually the toss was lost (only the second time this year) and after some hesitation their skipper decided we should have a bat. This was good, as if honest I could not decide what to do if I had won it. George and Jon set off well and at a decent pace. They quickly established and maintained a rhythm of three or four an over, and it did not seem like long before they had beaten their previous best opening stand and put on a 50 partnership. In the middle of this came a contentious decision that would come back to haunt us later - MTSCC appealed for a catch behind from Jon, which he said he did not hit and which Ricardo did not give as the umpire. Their skipper was incandescent ...
Some deep fielding positions meant that they were able to keep progressing at a decent rate and a solid start became a very good one, and one which set a platform for what was to follow. When George perished for 34 in the 16th over the score was on 70. The opening partnership is now starting to look as good as predicted earlier in the season. In the six games that they have opened together, George and Jon have put on 42, 46 and 70 in three of them. It is feeling like one or both of them are going to get a big score very soon.
This brought Keith in at number three and he carried on the great work. Jon was out for 49 ( - jug avoidance VC?) when he slapped a catch in to the covers. However unlike the early weeks of the season, where this would have signaled a collapse, Dilan came to the wicket and continued to build our score with Keith. Standing as umpire, it was a joy to watch the experience of Keith and the classiness of Dilan first hand. The Tamils seemed to have no idea how to stop the runs or where the next wicket was coming from. I should learn to stop thinking things like that, as shortly after Keith was out for a good 33.
However, there was no let up as Sanjay joined Dilan and they continued to accumulate what was to become our best batting score of the season. The decision was taken to declare at 46 overs and the message was sent to the batsmen. The pace was upped with Dilan in particular playing some excellent shots, one big square six sticking in the mind. Both departed in quick succession, followed by Charles first ball ... I'm not sure he will be coaching that shot to the South African kids in Port Elizabeth in the coming weeks. Mamun and Ricardo bashed a few more before both were out - Mamun run out and Ricardo caught off the last ball of the 46th over. 224-8 declared.
Following an impressive tea ( - hats off to the guys at Edmonton for supplying easily the best tea in the league by the way) we set about trying to win the game. MTSCC clearly did not have the same idea and seemed set to block out the required 46 overs almost from the off. Ricardo and Kashif bowled lively opening spells and were unlucky. A number of edges and nicks through the slips accounted for most of the runs, but in reality it quickly became evident that the score was never really going to be a concern. What was to be the main concern was the wicket column and attacking fields were set as a result.
Joe and Charles came on to try and get the much needed breakthrough and we did not have to wait long ... Charles claiming three quick wickets to swing things in our favour. The introduction of Charles in to the team in the last two games has been a real positive. One or two have questioned why he has not been opening the bowling, but his impact as first change speaks for itself. He has taken eight wickets for virtually no runs and his accurate, fast, nagging bowling has been virtually unplayable by the opposition and given our attack plenty of venom. It is a shame for us and the club that he is now away for six weeks.
This brought together the MTSCC skipper and Stubborn Left Hander #1, who somehow proceeded to negotiate a series of tight, probing overs from Charles and Joe. Myself and Sanjay came on to try and break their increasingly frustrating partnership. Everyone thought I had done it when I trapped SLH#1 dead in front of the stumps LBW, only for it to be turned down by the umpire. It was time for the Crouch End skipper to be incandescent and the ensuing disagreement was unsavoury. However at drinks the equation was simple - we needed seven more wickets from the remaining 18 overs.
Within a few overs the situation looked much better - Sanjay bowled SLH #1 and I took two wickets in two balls (one thanks to a nonchalant catch from Charles and one to a stonewall LBW that kept a bit low). When Sanjay grabbed an LBW for himself to finally get rid of the skipper things were looking good. Seven down, three to go. Enter Stubborn Left Hander #2, a chap who had opened for them in last year's games. Ricardo and Charles returned to try and finish things off and the score crawled along mostly thanks to extras, a bit of wayward bowling and our increasingly attacking fields.
Ricardo bowled another batsmen out, but overs were running out to get the last two wickets. Joe replaced Charles but to no avail. The last throw of the dice was to give Dilan two of the last three overs. It almost worked as he finally removed SLH #2 with a ball that clipped the top of the stumps in the first of his two overs. I took the 'captain's responsibility' and bowled the penultimate over with no success, leaving Dilan six balls to be a hero. The tension was high but the last MTSCC pair hung on.
The disappointment and frustration of not winning was huge. Immediately afterwards it felt negative - we hadn't won. What could we have done differently? Should we have declared earlier? In hindsight, I now see the performance as hugely positive - we dominated the game and our opponents from start to finish. We showed what a good team we are and what good players we have. Our batting looked solid and is improving week on week. We posted by far our best batting total. We bowled and fielded well against a team that 'parked the bus' from the beginning. Ultimately, we were just one ball away from victory and we take our four points for the winning draw and move on to Lohana next week ....
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